Ontario makes series of changes to improve worker safety, increase fines for violations

work from heights
The Ontario government is updating standards for mandatory working at heights training, as falls remain one of the leading causes of deaths in industries like construction.  Photo credit: tong2530, stock.adobe.com 

As new amendments work their way through Queen’s Park for Ontario to have the stiffest penalties in Canada for corporations that violate workplace safety laws, the province is also expanding its funding to safety associations.

The amendments proposed in March to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) — now in Third Reading — would increase the maximum fine for corporations convicted of an offence under OHSA from $1.5 million to $2 million. Last spring, the government raised OHSA fines for individuals to a maximum of $500,000 and up to a maximum of $1.5 million for corporate directors.

“Every worker in Ontario deserves to come home safely to their family at the end of their shift,” announced Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, in a statement. “In addition to recently introducing legislation to raise fines for occupational health and safety violations to the highest level in the country, our government will continue to invest in education, prevention and enforcement to ensure every worker in Ontario has the protections they deserve.”

Now, the Ontario government has announced an additional investment of $12.5 million for safety associations, the not-for-profit corporations that deliver workplace health and safety programs on behalf of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. The investment will support organizations like Workplace Safety North, which helped rescue 39 miners trapped underground in Sudbury in 2021, and strengthen worker safety in critical industries from manufacturing to forestry.

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Ontario’s safety associations include Infrastructure Health & Safety Association; Public Services Health & Safety Association; Workplace Safety & Prevention Services; Workplace Safety North; Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers; and the Workers Health and Safety Centre.

Additionally, the Ontario government is updating standards for mandatory working at heights training, as falls remain one of the leading causes of deaths in industries like construction. The updates improve the quality of training and safety knowledge of participants when working in various settings with ladders, skylights and damaged equipment.

Ontario has also been cracking down on businesses and people who take advantage of vulnerable workers by withholding a foreign national’s passport or work permit. Individuals convicted of withholding passports would be liable to either a fine of up to $500,000, up to 12 months imprisonment, or both. Corporations convicted would be liable to a fine of up to $1 million.

In November 2021, Ontario established a new unit to detect potential labour trafficking activity. In the first year of operation, the unit received over 300 tips, initiated investigations and helped 3,500 workers recover over $400,000 in wages.

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